Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Connected TV: widgets versus the remote control

To follow up on the previous post, Skype has already added the third screen: after the computer and mobile devices, it's now the TV. But what is at least as striking in both the LG and the Panasonic release, connected to Skype's launch of a HDTV client, is the implied reference to widgets.

LG offers the NetCast Entertainment Access technology (launched a year ago), basically an on-screen menu (controled via remote control). Panasonic has Viera Cast technology (launched two years ago), offering the same functionality. Viera Cast appears to be a widget channel of sorts, already providing access to Amazon VOD, YouTube, Picasa and Bloomberg News.

The big question now is: who will be a winner in this arms race to get the TV connected? Here are the categories competing:
  • Independent box manufacturers (Boxee, Roku, Sezmi, Syabas, etc.)
  • Established STB makers (Humax, )
  • TV manufacturers (LG, Panasonic, Samsung)
  • Software makers (ANT, ActiveVideo, Oregan Networks, Metrological Media Innovations)
  • Content aggregators (ZapMyTV)
On the side, to include a few other initiatives, there are similar movements going on at the same time:
  • Connected TV, or HbbTV (hybrid broadband broadcast TV): bring web-based content (including catch-up TV and VOD) to the TV through a broadband connection.
  • Catch-up TV: bring TV-based content to the web (and back to the TV again through a Connected TV platform).
  • TV Everywhere, DECE, KeyChest: put video/TV-based content in the cloud for consumption on any device via a broadband connection.
  • Place-shifting: distribute home content (including live TV) over any broadband connection (Sling).
And which could be the ingredients to success?
  • Good functionality: this requires a solid processor.
  • Ease of use: the answer to this is simple: widgets (or whatever people call them, e.g. Popapps) and/or the remote control (which could morph into a keyboard of sorts, such as the new Boxee/D-Link product).
  • True HbbTV, i.e. true integration of broadband and broadcast content. Here lies the key: this is what Connected TV sets apart form media players, i.e. better services and an opportunity for the entire value chain (including broadcasters, hardware/software makers, advertisers, content producers).
  • Relationships with established players in the TV ecosystem: partnering with cable companies, STB and TV manufacturers will give distribution a boost.
  • Content: a full widget gallery.
  • Low pricing: this speaks against boxes, because the silicon may as well be built into TV sets directly.
All the softwaremakers mentioned above appear to be betting on a multi-distribution strategy. Take Metrological: it has its first box made, but it is ready to move into the TV. Oregan was involved in last month's Marks & Spencer TV. Etc.

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